2020 Pre-Draft Movements – Wide Receiver

Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington

We started this series with a little over two weeks remaining to the draft, knowing that nearly all of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pertinent personnel decisions will have already been made. Over the course of the series, we will be reviewing the team’s roster turnover position by position in an effort to help us project what their plans will be for the 2020 NFL Draft.

The Steelers had eight primary players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents this offseason and have re-signed only one of them, that being Bud Dupree on the franchise tag. Unrestricted free agents who signed elsewhere were Javon Hargrave, B.J. Finney, Sean Davis, Tyler Matakevich, Nick Vannett, and Artie Burns. They re-signed a number exclusive rights or restricted free agents, chiefly Matt Feiler and Mike Hilton, as well as Zach Banner, Kameron Canaday, and Jordan Dangerfield on non-tender one-year deals. The deals of Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Haden, Steven Nelson, Maurkice Pouncey, Chris Boswell, and Vance McDonald were all restructured.

Also of note were the releases of Mark Barron, Anthony Chickillo, Johnny Holton, and Roosevelt Nix, and the retirement of Ramon Foster, as well as three significant signings in free agency, adding a new fullback in Roosevelt Nix, a potential starting lineman in Stefen Wisniewski, and a new tight end in Eric Ebron.

Position: Wide Receiver

Total Positional Figure: 9

Offseason Additions: 0

Offseason Deletions: 1

Players Retained:

JuJu Smith-Schuster: Primed for a breakout year in 2019, Smith-Schuster instead fell flat. It didn’t help that he didn’t have his quarterback, or the threat of AB on the other side, but throw injuries on top of it, and that goes a long way toward explaining his struggles—but not all the way.

James Washington: Washington made some legitimate strides in his second season, even leading the team in receiving yards—albeit a rather unimpressive total for that distinction. Now let’s see how he can go with Ben Roethlisberger.

Diontae Johnson: After a promising rookie season, again, it will be exciting to see how he works with Roethlisberger. They hardly got to work together at all this year. He has the potential to be the next breakout player.

Ryan Switzer: Still hanging on, Switzer is entering his fourth season and third with the Steelers. He spent much of last season on IR, but prior to that had been largely phased out of the offense, usually playing single-digit snaps. His efficiency numbers as a receiver and returner were awful.

Deon Cain: Signed off the Colts’ practice squad late in the year. Cain is tall and fast and made some plays. That’s about all we know about him right now. What’s his ceiling?

Amara Darboh: Another tall receiver, Darboh was signed to the practice squad mid-year and ended up on the 53-man roster, but didn’t dress.

Quadree Henderson: A guy who worked his way back to Pittsburgh as an in-season practice squad pickup. He was originally signed by them after the 2018 draft but didn’t make the cut, spending some time with the Giants that year. He was signed to a futures deal.

Jamal Custis: Yet another player that the Steelers signed to their practice squad, amid injuries, in the middle of the year. He too was signed to a futures deal.

Anthony Johnson: Johnson is on his third team since going undrafted out of Buffalo last year, signed as a futures player. He has yet to spend any time with the team, since it was brought in after the season was over already

Players Added: N/A

Players Deleted:

Johnny Holton: Signed in free agency last year, the Steelers released Holton in March, even though it didn’t save much cap space. It was still a surprising move given there wasn’t much incentive to do it, unless they wanted to give him a chance of signing elsewhere early on.

Notes And Draft Outlook:

Even though the Steelers could have a nice top three at the position on their hands, wide receiver is still expected to be a position that they target in the draft, perhaps as early as their top pick. This draft class is being compared to that of 2014, so it would be a disappointment if they don’t come away with something for their troubles.

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